A program that works in conjunction with the City of Renton, the Renton Farmers Market, and Compass Housing Alliance worked to put fresh, locally-grown produce into the hands of veterans experiencing food insecurity.
Renton Farmers Market Coordinator Carrie Olson said the Renton Roots – Farm to You program came together “serendipitously” two years ago as a partnership between several community organizations, paid for in part by grant funding made possible by King County’s Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy.
Olson said the program is somewhat of a win-win situation because it allows local farmers and vendors who rely on their profits from a limited farmers market season to support themselves and get paid for produce that otherwise would be donated for free. The program also gets fresh and nutritious produce into the hands of local veterans living at Compass Housing Alliance.
“Not only are we bringing fresh, super local foods,” Olson said, “but we are putting money into our farmers’ pockets.”
The program was created in 2022 by Olson and two AmeriCorps VISTAs, Sophie DeWitt and Victoria Kvitek. It was made possible by the work of volunteers and community members invested in reducing food security in the Renton community.
The first year of the program, according to Olson, was formatted differently. Boxes of farmers market produce were put together and delivered to community members in need. However, after receiving feedback from the community about wanting to gather and pick their own produce, the Renton Roots – Farm to You program pivoted.
During the 2023 farmers market season, Olson and volunteers along with other program supporters brought the farmers market experience to folks living at Compass Housing Alliance by carting a selection of fresh produce just a block away from the actual farmers market. In the common area of the housing community, residents gathered to pick their preferred produce from a market-like selection.
“We wanted to make it a unique experience,” Olson said. “Like they were really going to the farmers market.”
The program also worked with WSU’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education, which already had been working with Compass Housing Alliance to provide food storage advice, food preparation tips, recipes, and cooking demonstrations to promote healthy and nutritious habits.
“It was tough to see people face-to-face that are experiencing food insecurity, especially veterans,” said Olson.
The program finished its final week for this season on Aug. 30, and it is unclear whether funding will be available to continue the program for future seasons.